It's very rare that modern situation comedy can truly capture the human dynamic in any given situation. Traditionally the writers go for a laugh that's unexpected rather than simple observational comedy. That's not the nature of "The Office." It's uncomfortable, obnoxious and ultimately real.
Michael Scott (Steve Carell) is an ineffective manager who runs a local division of a paper company, Dunder Mifflin. He seemingly has no social filter or idea of what is appropriate to say in the workplace. Often people wonder how their boss ascended to a position of authority with little-to-no ability to perform the functions required of them. That is absolutely the case with Carell's Scott. He, without intended malice, perpetrates stereotypes, makes inappropriate jokes and harasses his employees. He's simply too obtuse to realize that what comes out of his mouth has no place in any social situation, let alone in the workplace where he is in a position of power.
The show is confined to the walls of the paper provider and focuses on the day-to-day insanity that goes on in the workplace. By keeping the show cloistered away from the personal lives of the workers, the creators give a limited but accurate picture of a slice of America's white collar workforce. The reason the show works is ultimately dependent upon the ability of the actors to play their roles straight.
The key players are Jim (John Krasinski) who portrays an everyman employee. He's a salesman who has little interest in turning his job into a career. He paces his days by playing pranks on his fellow workers and casually flirting with the company receptionist, Pam. Pam (Jenna Fischer) is stagnant in both her life and job. She's been engaged for years without resolution and feels as though her life isn't going in the direction she expected. The lynchpin is Dwight, a control freak who wants to feel more important than he really is. Played wonderfully by Rainn Wilson, Dwight is as offensive as Carell's Scott, lacking the same social graces but on a power trip.
The bit players also hit their marks in the office, playing off quick jokes that belie the nature of the intolerance that runs through the office. They are the antithesis of stereotypical, thus making Michael's views even more ignorant and obscene.
There are only six episodes in this first abbreviated season, so the topics are fairly limited. The first episode introduces the major players in this drama, while subsequent introduces issues of sexual harassment, racism and insurance plans. Each episode is self-contained though does contain a few character threads that advance the characters.
At times "The Office" hits so close to reality that it becomes hard to watch. In fact, while watching the basketball episode during its original broadcast run, I had to turn it off. I'm impressed with the emotions that the show elicits. At times I became uncomfortable as a voyeur for the interactions in this office. One of the reasons I first tuned in was a coworker who claimed it hit many familiar notes in our office, and she was certainly right. I'm sure that most people with some experience with a white collar environment will find something to latch on to.
The Anamorphic 16:9 aspect ratio looks as good on DVD as it did during the original HD feed on NBC. There isn't any grain, edge enhancement or artifacting.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track is excellent. It's not flashy, but it gets the job done. Unremarkable in every way.
There are six deleted scenes from different episodes. They are widescreen, but not Anamorphic. A lot of them aren't truly deleted scenes but rather extensions of scenes already existing in the finished episodes. Alternate takes, more like.
Each episode also has a commentary from different players in the cast and crew. They give out good information about the genesis of the American version of "The Office" and how they put it together. They get along and mix goofiness and information to create a good amount of information.
You probably noticed that I never made comparisons to the original British version of "The Office." The reason is simple; this is a different beast. In the commentary Carell and crew make it clear that they wanted to make their own take on the concept of "The Office." I think they did well in creating an independent comedy that stands on its own merits.